We all have it……..

That ability to be consciously aware of something. It is something that we all naturally possess. Though did you know that it is another one of those aspects that when we practise it daily, it becomes more readily available to us?

In the fast paced world we live in today, it is sometimes difficult to slow down and notice what is happening around you. The increased feeling that we need to be “on the go” all of the time. That we are available to respond to any type of requests immediately and the rush to complete any type of task can lead us down a road where we can lose connections with the moment. 

Mindfulness is intentional and is all about paying attention to the moment. Being completely aware of what is happening not just in our thoughts, but within our bodies, the environment around us, and our feelings. Being fully present and not being caught up with what has happened in the past, or the “what-ifs” of the future. This complete awareness is also done without judgement, without analysis and without questioning. It is just about accepting what is in that present moment.

Mindfulness can bring us back to the expression “stop and smell the roses”. Take time to appreciate the now.

Just like in the last post where the focus was on the daily practice of gratitude, the daily practice of mindfulness also has many benefits when it comes to enhancing our mental health. As with many of the practices that we can put in place, mindfulness has a range of not only mental health benefits, but physical, social, spiritual and cognitive benefits as well. Each and every one of the dimensions of health.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Practising mindfulness trains your brain to slow down. By doing this, it has been shown at times to help in the following areas:

  • Clearing your mind
  • Improving sleep
  • Relieving stress 
  • Boosting your positive emotions
  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Improving concentration, memory and attention
  • Enhancing your relationships with others
  • Relaxing your body 
  • Increasing your ability to remain calm
  • Strengthening your sense of self

A 2003 study found that after 8 weeks of practising mindfulness, the following was found:

  • Greater activation in the areas of their brain associated with feeling good.
  • Reduced activation in the areas associated with stress and worrying.
  • Stronger immune systems.

Davidson, kabat-Zinn, Schumacher, Rosenkranz, Muller, Santorelli, Urbanowski, Harrington, Bonus, Sheridan (2003) Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychomatic Medicine, 65: 564- 70

How can we build mindfulness?

As it is all about being in the moment and paying attention to both the internal (your thoughts and feelings) and external (sights, sounds, smells) we can actually practise mindfulness in any of our everyday activities (washing dishes, brushing your teeth, listening to music, working on a project and even a conversation). Below are just a few ideas to get you started:

Going for a walk – leave your devices at home (or turn them off) and take in the sights, sounds and smells that are all around you in nature.

Mindful eating – take your time to savour the tastes, smells and textures of the food you are eating. Slow down and appreciate what is on your plate.

Body Scanning – take the time to notice the feelings in your body. Bring attention to every aspect of your body from head to toe and then back again.

Mindfulness Meditation – sitting quietly and focusing on your natural breathing (if this is something you find difficult, there are many good and free apps that can guide you through this practice).

One thing to note is that it can be difficult when starting out. Mindfulness is something that you get better at over time. If your mind starts to wander, that’s ok, just redirect without judgement. Be kind to yourself, don’t be harsh because you’ve had thoughts pop up, this is common. By practising as often as you can, the better you get.

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